Friday, 25 July 2014


Last Sunday night I went to see Monty Python Live. I went with Rich.  Rich MALC.  My dear School friend, my oldest friend.  Rich, who took me to see '12 Years a Slave' (See previous BLOG: CINEMA) was up for the challenge of accompanying me as my 'Carer'. Duties include getting me to the venue, getting me to my seat and getting the Interval Ice-Cream - so, quite a responsibility.  Technically my CEA card (Cinema Exhibitors Association - which qualifies me for a free ticket for my carer when I purchase a ticket for myself) doesn't state that my carer has to provide Interval Ice-Cream.  But, I like to think of it as a little unwritten law of accompanying me.

I've been to a couple of 'Live' things now.  We (Rich and I) went to see 'The Curious Incident - Live' a few weeks back, which was an innovative, energetic and engaging interpretation of Mark HADDON's excellent novel. Then last Thursday I went with Papa and May and Robin to see 'Skylight - Live' (by David HARE) staring Carey MULLIGAN and Bill NIGHY, who are wonderfully cast, as the intelligent but really actually quite wounded characters who have shared experiences and loves, all of which was quite powerful and moving theatre.

'And now for something completely different ...' 'Monty Python Live' (Mostly) ...

It is fair to say that the Pythons are 'comedy legends' and we are promised that  "At a combined age of just 358, John CLEESE, Terry GILLIAM, Eric IDLE, Terry JONES and Michael PALIN will once again perform some of their greatest hits, with modern, topical, Pythonesque twists."  Monty Python are rightfully regarded as among the world's finest-ever comedians.  In many ways 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' is to television what 'The Goon Show' had been to radio. They influenced a generation and revolutionised comedy. They followed in the footsteps of Oxbridge Footlights comedy greats. The Oxbridge Mafia.  In the Footsteps of Peter COOK and Dudley MOORE and Alan BENNET and Jonathan MILLER and the 1960s review 'Beyond the Fridge' and in the wave of new and extraordinary shows and possibilities that television offered.

John CLEESE and Graham CHAPMAN wrote together having met at Cambridge University. Michael PALIN wrote most of his comedic material with Terry JONES whom he met at Oxford University. All six 'Pythons' wrote or contributed in some way to 'The Frost Report'.

The brilliant inventiveness of Monty Python's Flying Circus was and is perfect.  The show's title itself was deliberately silly, so as not to give away any of the content on the show, and took some work.  Early possible titles included 'A Horse, A Spoon And A Bucket', but eventually the title 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' was found to cause amusement and was agreed upon.  'Monty Python's Flying Circus' was very much born out of 'The Frost Report' and out of 'I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again' and 'That Was The Week That Was' (TW3) and in the desire to break the conventions that those show had established and to escape the established comedy principles of shows such as 'Not Only But Also' and other established and respected comedy shows.  Monty Python pushed back the established boundaries.  It challenged the status quo.  It was different.  It became a cult.

So, "for the first time in more than three decades, comedy legends Monty Python will perform live on stage together".  Broadcast from London's O2 Arena, Monty Python Live (mostly) was shown in cinemas around the globe. Europe. North America. South America. Asia. Australia.  World-Wide.  A World-Wide Phenomenon.  We were in Leicester.  But I have friends in Texas who were also watching the show.  The same show.  Kind of strange to share the experience of 'Live Theatre', but without actually being in the same theatre let alone on the same continent! The wonders of modern technology.

We laughed.  We laughed quite a lot. We laughed at the familiar sketches. Those sketches that had once pushed boundaries and were regarded as daring and risqué, with the almost surreal stream of conscious, and with the Terry GILLIUM animation.  Monty Python pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in terms of style and content, the silliness, the cross dressing, these aspects were new, were bold and brave.  These aspects are now familiar and loved and firmly established as comedy history. "Nudge. Nudge. Wink. Wink. Say No More, Say No More."

The Parrot Sketch or Dead Parrot Sketch:
"No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage."

The Ministry of Silly Walks:
"Well sir, I have a silly walk and I'd like to obtain a Government grant to help me develop it."

The Spam Sketch/Song: Where the menu of the 'greasy spoon cafe' consists of:
"Egg and bacon; Egg, sausage and bacon; Egg and Spam; Egg, bacon and Spam; Egg, bacon, sausage and Spam; Spam, bacon, sausage and Spam; Spam, egg, Spam, Spam, bacon and Spam; Spam, Spam, Spam, egg and Spam; Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, Spam and Spam; and Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, garnished with truffle pâté, brandy and a fried egg on top, and Spam."

The Spanish Inquisition: Cardinals Ximénez, Biggles and Fang
"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and a nice red uniform."

The Lumber Jack song:
"I cut down trees, I eat my lunch,
I go to the lava-try.
On Wednesdays I go shoppin'
And have buttered scones for tea."

The Philosophers Song:
"John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
Plato, they say, could stick it away;
Half a crate of whiskey every day."

The Penis song:
"Isn't it awfully nice to have a penis
Isn't it frightfully good to have a dong?
It's swell to have a stiffy, it's divine to own a dick
From the tiniest little tadger to the world's biggest prick"

Bright Side Of Life:"If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing
When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle - that's the thing."

There were guest appearances from: Eddie IZZARD, Mike MYERS, Professor Brian COX, and Professor Stephen HAWKING which is indicative of the high regard, fondness and love in which Monty Python is esteemed, and shows how their characters and their silliness have been embraced and adopted within popular culture and how they have enriched our lives.

The show was unashamedly and wonderfully a celebration of all things Pythonesque.

"What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow ?"

"What do you mean? An African or European swallow?"

Friday, 18 July 2014


Happy Birthday to Benedict CUMBERBATCH; the utterly splendid Benedict Timothy Carlton CUMBERBATCH, who is 38 years old today.

Most of you already know this, are aware of the fact that I'm rather taken with Benedict CUMBERBATCH.  You see he is an actor, and he has played the role of Sherlock Holmes (See my previous BLOG Post on SHERLOCK HOLMES).  I have loved Sherlock Holmes, from the moment I purchased my first Canon.  I just fell in Love.

You are not supposed to love Sherlock HOLMES.  Sherlock HOLMES isn't loveable. He is damaged.  "It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love... All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind." (SCAN), but yet somehow, there is something about his 'alone' that is quite upsetting, heart breaking, and I wanted to alleviate his pain.  He doesn't want to need anyone. He doesn't trust, and he doesn't need, and he doesn't love - or perhaps he fears trusting and fears needing and fears loving someone, in case that trust is broken and that need is violated or abused, and the love not returned.  To my mind, Benedict manages to make Sherlock human, yet is aware of those nuances of the character, those fine distinctions, those idiosyncrasies which make Holmes Holmes, which make him bonkers and brilliant, and damaged and a loner and "a brain without a heart" (GREE).

He (Benedict) has played the role of Professor Stephen HAWKING (See my previous BLOG Post on HAWKING).  I remember the first time I saw the 2004 film I didn't even know who Benedict CUMBERBATCH was, I just remember being very impressed at the time with the acting, with the sensitivity towards the role, with the way that the determination and dignity with which Professor HAWKING accomplished what he did, completing his PhD, whilst bravely facing the unknown in terms of his health and medical condition was captured.  In the 2013 film about Professor HAWKING, Benedict is interviewed and he talks very articulately about Motor Neurone Disease (MND), which really is the most terribly cruel neurological condition.  He expressed perfectly the "feelings of vulnerability" and the "terrifying prospect" of "a body that locks you in".  This is something I can relate to living with MS, which is a very different, but an equally cruel neurological condition.

He has played Major Jamie Stewart in the film of War Horse (See my previous BLOG Post on WAR HORSE).  I admit I haven't seen the film (I did go and see the National Theatre Live production of War Horse) as I am still traumatised from reading 'Black Beauty' as a child, but I am sure Benedict is splendid in it, and he learnt to ride a horse to play the part.

He has played Christopher TIETJENS in Tom STOPPARD's adaptation of Ford MADDOX FORD's 'Parade's End'. A powerful story set in the dying days of the Edwardian English Empire, covering a ten-year span before, during and after the First World War.  The glorious story of Christopher TIETJENS, a brilliant government statistician from a wealthy Yorkshire landowning family, "a man born out of his time but ultimately a hero" his wife, Silva TIETJENS, his "damaged, bored, dangerously privileged wife", and Valentine WANNOP, a young pacifist suffragette. "Valentine, an extraordinary young kindred spirit and intellect who provokes him into ‘gathering his thoughts’ and who fells him like a lightning bolt with her boyish beauty and pluck."  This is utterly perfect.  And I admit I fell a little bit in love with both Christopher and Valentine.

Recently Benedict has, arguably become somewhat ubiquitous: Star Trek Into Darkness; Twelve Years a Slave; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; August: Osange County; and he seems to 'pop up' in various places (i.e. at The Oscars, with a pretty spectacular photo bomb of U2) and be on various Chat Shows (on Jimmy Kimmel Live readingR. Kelly's "Genius" and Adverts (for Jaguar 'Alive', and be the subject of numerous articles and interviews and he was even at Chelsea Flower Show this year with Wanda VENTHAM (his Mum); and in Singapore for the F1 Racing and also in Monaco for the Monaco Grand Prix and Paris for the Tennis.  Basically, it is fair to say, he gets about a bit.

Cumberbatchweb ( a fantastic website for all things Benedict) and it is raising funds for The Princes Trust in honour of Benedict's 38th birthday. So if you want to do something for Benedict's Birthday you can donate at: or you can donate by text by sending the code BCPT73 and the amount you want to donate (£1 £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to70070

So, Happy 38th Birthday Benedict CUMBERBATCH.  You are splendid. Wherever you are and whatever you do, celebrate in style and have a wonderful day.  I am sure that you will.

Friday, 11 July 2014


Pucker Up! 

The other Sunday was International Kissing Day.  And this kind of got me thinking.  Thinking about kissing.  Every girl growing up remembers the story of the frog that was turned into a Handsome Prince through the power of a kiss.

A kiss is a glorious thing.  A truly glorious thing. A kiss is the act of pressing one's lips against the lips (or other body parts) of another.  And to be enjoyed it should be shared.  As Bernard MELTZER explained, "Happiness is like a kiss.  You must share it to enjoy it."

So, as the song goes, in the dulcet tones of Dooley WILSON in the 1942 film, Casablanca: "You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss." ... but really, is it?  Is a kiss ever just a kiss?

There are many types of kisses. A formal kiss.  A friendly kiss.  A passionate kiss.  A goodbye kiss.  And of course, a first kiss.  

And we have all experienced that 'first kiss' that all important first kiss, that nerve wracking, knee trembling anticipation of 'the first kiss'.  But why? What's so important about the first kiss?  Is it the fact that it is the first kiss which has the power to either 'rock your world' or 'shatter your dreams'?  Maybe it is as Cher informed us in the 'Shoop Shoop Song', "If you wanna know if he loves you so, it's in his kiss."  And then there was poor George Michael, who "Must Have Been Kissing A Fool".

The idea behind the International Kissing Day is that many people may have forgotten the simple pleasure associated with kissing, the pleasure of kissing for kissing's sake; as opposed to kissing as a mere 'social formality' or as a prelude to other activities. International Kissing Day is a day, a whole day, to remind us that kissing can be an enjoyable experience in and of itself. It is an expression of and experience of intimacy, of affection and essentially of love.

Audrey HEPBURN certainly was an advocate of kissing.  She is quoted as saying, "I believe in kissing, kissing a lot."  So do I Audrey.  And Ingrid BERGMAN commented that "A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous."  Even Albert EINSEIN had an opinion on the topic, commenting that "Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves."  Quite right Albert.

The record for the longest kiss now stands at 58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds.  Blimey! That really is quite some kiss.

Percy Bysshe Shelly summed it all up pretty well in his poem, 'LOVE'S PHILOSOPHY':

The Fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single,
All things by a law devine
In one another's being mingle -
Why not I with thine?

See the mountains kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdain'd its brother:
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea -
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me? 

Indeed, what are these kissings worth, if thou kiss not me?

Personally, I think I am a little like Scarlett O'Hara (equally as complex,willful and bright *cough*) and just as Rhett says of Scarlett, I think I "should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how."  Yes, I probably should.

So. Gentlemen.  If you know-how. Form an orderly queue!

Friday, 4 July 2014


As you will by now know (see my previous RIDE LONDON BLOG) Patrick aka 'SHARKY' is taking part in Ride London in support of MS-UK; to raise funds for and raise awareness of Multiple Sclerosis.  'Cos that is the splendid sort of guy he is.

In case you missed it.  The inaugural Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 took place in 2013.  The event starts in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and goes on for 100 miles through the closed streets of London and out on into the Surrey hills.  The event is alegacy of the 2012 Olympic Games and is now an annual two-day festival of cycling, developed by Boris JOHNSON, the Mayor of London and his agencies. It is billed as the 'ultimate cycling challenge'; so, definitely not for the faint hearted.  If you would like to find out more, details can be found on the website:

This year 'Bike London' takes place over the weekend of Saturday 09 August and Sunday 10 August, 2014 Amanda and I will be going along to make lots of noise and cheer Patrick and the MS-UK team along, and to meet with the other members and supporters of the MS-UK team.  If you are in or around London or Surrey that weekend, do get in touch and I'll let you know and I'll let you know where we shall be.  You can come along and meet up with us.  It would be really great to see you.  The more the merrier.

Patrick aka SHARKY is a tri-athlete: Running.  Swimming.  Cycling.  An Iron-Man.  He does this sort of thing for fun! He is SUPER fit.  He looks good in LYCRA!  Yes, he really is that fit.  So, he is ready for the challenge.  Patrick enjoys a challenge (well yes, we know that, because he married Amanda!).   He has been training hard. He has been training really hard. And it is going to get harder.

Patrick has commented that he is taking part because "I made him do it".  This is only partially true.  I am Amanda's friend, and I have MS and, I admit, I suggested it.  But, it seemed like a legitimate way to get Patrick into Lycra! Have a mentioned that Patrick looks good in Lycra?  So, why is he doing this?  Patrick has explained that, "MS-UK is important to me.  I have seen the terrible effects of this debilitating disease and I want to do my part to help find new treatments and eventually a cure."

Patrick trains between four to five days a week, dependant on his work commitments.  He explains that at the moment he does about 6-8 hours a week.  This is his 'base' phase of training.  His training is built into 3 phases of 'base', 'build' and 'peak'.  He will build up to 14 hours as his training builds.

To me, the commitment that Patrick shows is incredible.  His determination and dedication is admirable.  It is impressive.  It is awesome.  To be honest, it is really humbling to think that someone would show such devotion to the cause, to train with such loyalty, focus and commitment, would push themselves to such an extent that they can compete against some of the best.

When I asked Patrick about his diet, he explained that while he is training his diet is fairly straight forward:
Breakfast - porridge with banana, honey and sprinkled with a home-made nut-and-seed-mix.
Mid morning snack - fruit or nuts
Lunch - pasta salad with chicken or egg
Afternoon snack - small flapjack
Evening meal - fish/chicken/steak with vegetable or salad.

Patrick roughly bases his diet on about 2400 calories per day, but will increase this on heavy training days.  When he is training he will burn 500 - 1000 calories in an hour depending on whether he is running or swimming or cycling.  He tries to work on a 500 calorie deficit each day, so he loses 1lb per week, which means he'll get to his ideal race weight.

Patrick is rather strict when he is training, and he recognises that Amanda is a huge help in supporting him and keeping him focussed.  However she does provide the additional incentive and occasional treat of chocolate and wine when it is needed.

Patrick has explained that he "loves the challenge of driving myself to the edge, and even better especially when I can do it for a great cause.   The reason I choose to help MSUK is I know how tired I can get from working a 50+ hour job and training on top but I know a good sleep and all is ok, but I know my wife's friend doesn't get that relief."

Please. Please. Please, if you can, do support Patrick is his fundraising efforts.

Patrick is raising funds for MS-UK and has set up a 'Just Giving' Sponsorship page at: 

The text code to donate by text is PBRL77 £5 then text that to 70070

THANK YOU in advance for you support and your generosity